Happiness is hard

Everyone knows it’s hard to be happy. If it were easy, we wouldn’t spend billions of dollars on self-help books and antidepressants and self-medicate with alcohol and drugs. Still, some people seems to be happier, on the whole, than others. This weekend, I saw the Mike Leigh film, “Another Year.” The central couple are two people who are simply content living lives that are fulfilled by a loving marriage, careers and simple daily rituals, like gardening, something they do together throughout the seasons.

I often ascribe my happiness or depression to chemicals, since it is true that my brain can steer me to sadness or utter bliss without much notice. But it’s too simple to say it’s all about chemicals.  Because it’s also true that just getting out of bed in the morning (which can often be a victory in and of itself) and doing something matters can be a transformative thing. Maybe that thing is going to work, but maybe, on the weekends, it is cooking a meal or planting a garden or knitting  a sweater.  These rituals may be what keeps us going.

I know I have been guilty of waking up on a Sunday and not exercising or doing the thing that would get me out of my head.  Instead, I allow myself to think about the things that are wrong with my life.

Maybe happiness–even for those of us living with bipolar or depression or whatever it is– is about stopping with all the thinking and starting with the doing.

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